Photograph: Govexec.com

Editors Note: This was inspired by an anonymous submission to our website.

On July 10, 2013, nearly three months after the Boston Marathon bombing, the man accused of carrying out the terrorist attack, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, plead not guilty to all 30 charges against him. 17 of these charges carry the possibility of life in prison, or the death penalty. The charges are related to the bombing of the Boston Marathon,  the shooting death of Officer Sean Collier, the carjacking of “Danny”, and the shootout with police in which he and his brother Tamerlan allegedly took place.
This plea leaves many people wondering, “What happens now?” Well, there are many different roads that this can lead to. The first possibility would be a trial, most likely a long one, with many, many witnesses, ending in either the sentencing or acquittal by a jury. The second possibility would be a possible plea bargain between the prosecution (the District Attorney) and the defense (Tsarnaev’s legal team). With a plea bargain, Tsarnaev would agree to change his plea to “guilty”, to avoid a certain sentence, most likely the death penalty. However, it has not been decided by US Attorney General Eric Holder whether the US will seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev. Another possibility is that Tsarnaev and his legal team will decline a plea deal, setting the death penalty on the table. His defense would have to show strong evidence of his innocence to the charges against him to have him win the trial.

What do you think is going to happen now? Do you think Mr. Holder is going to seek the death penalty? Do you think Tsarnaev and his lawyers would accept a plea deal? What is the specific motivation behind his plea of Not Guilty?


8/9/2013 06:01:55 am

Given the reaction of the masses and the victims' families, I have a feeling Holder is going to go for the death penalty. I know my response won't shape or change anything, but I hope from the bottom of my heart that Jahar doesn't settle for a plea deal to avoid death penalty. Jahar probably has a lot of things to consider when deciding what to do - the allegations so far and how his legal team is going to counter them, circumstantial evidence that he's aware of that may make him look guilty, how his family might feel about him taking such a 'risk', etc. But I want to reiterate that this is much bigger than life and death, in my opinion. It's about standing for what's true in the face of stiff opposition, hate, criticism, abuse and what have you. I hope he fights for his innocence till the end, and so will we.

8/9/2013 06:36:48 am

Excellent post and I agree with everything you said! No matter what happens, I'll still be here supporting him till the end because I believe in his innocence. I've never been this invested in a case before this one. My gut instincts tells me something isn't right with this whole case and my gut instinct has never been wrong so far. I hope justice will prevail.

8/9/2013 07:14:38 am

At this point the plea of not guilty buys time so that the defence can now look at the evidence in more detail and try to find either something to negotiate with or prepare for a trial. It's difficult to imagine a good outcome here if you look at other cases against suspected terrorists. Particularly past Judy Clarke cases seem to be a plea of not guilty then a deal then no more bout the whole thing.

8/9/2013 12:48:41 pm

Do you think Mr. Holder is going to seek the death penalty? No.

Do you think Tsarnaev and his lawyers would accept a plea deal? I hope not.

What is the specific motivation behind his plea of Not Guilty? Maybe he is really not guilty of the bombings, whether it be that is was not his backpack that blew-up or that his back pack did blow up but was not the cause of the deaths, injuries and damage, whatever it is, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

8/9/2013 07:01:53 pm

The fact that his lawyers advised him to plead 'not guilty' is actually something remarkable on its own. Usually, in their previous cases their clients pleaded 'guilty' from the beginning so that a lighter sentence would be achieved. However, here which is a graver situation their client claimed his innocence.
But, I believe Holder will seek the death penalty as Jahar and his lawyers filed another request for the addition of another death penalty lawyer (sorry I can't remember his name)

8/9/2013 10:03:32 pm

@b, not completely true, in their previous cases most clients pleaded not guilty to begin with and either changed plea before trial or during trial.

They use the not guilty plea as a bargaining point. A lengthy trial means more publicity/suffering for victims and families, so a deal would be welcomed by many on the prosecution side.

This does not mean that evidence will not be made public as evidence appears during the sentencing hearing

8/10/2013 12:26:54 am

I'm going to go off topic here: I don't get you, Blake. You are always coming here and leaving comments. You seem like a rational, neutral party here, but on twitter, your alter ego BillBates13, is mean, rude and a bully to the supporters. So which one is the real you? Or do the internet give you a free rein to have multiple personalities? A different person here and a different person on twitter?

8/10/2013 05:32:02 am

"A lengthy trial means more publicity/suffering for victims and families" Unfortunately, even if the trial is a short or a long one nothing will change. At the moment, the life of a young person who might be or not be the perpetrator is at stake. I highly doubt that the prosecution will present their evidence.

8/10/2013 10:21:07 am

I agree a full trial would satisfy the outside world's curiosity, but would be extremely painful for the victims and their families. Just look at the hate they are receiving from a vociferous minority at the moment.

If Jahar is not guilty, he should plead not guilty and the long trial will be unavoidable.

If Jahar is guilty, he should do a plea deal to save the victims from further suffering.

I hope Holder does not say yes to DP. Reading the interviews with the victims and their families, it seems a majority of them are not in favor of DP.

8/13/2013 10:39:15 am

.......you are BillBates13? Yikes Blake - you are very tempermental on twitter. I am quite familiar with you there - yikes. You don't seem like the same person at all.

8/10/2013 12:06:41 am

Blake is right if you look at other terror cases a really high percentage plead not guilty at this stage. It would be stupid to plead anything else due to the magnitude of the details of the case. David Bruck I believe is the name of the lawyer they want to add.

8/10/2013 05:35:20 am

It might sound insignificant that he pleaded not guilty, but you cannot deny that his reaction towards the charges contradicts highly with the 'radical Islamist' profile the prosecution desperately tries to bestow upon Jahar. In general, those people are remorseless, proud of their actions so they wouldn't bother bargaining deals. They'd confess to their actions

8/10/2013 05:59:58 am

I dont know if links appear in comments. This is an aljazeera report on 2010 London terrorist plot where all 9 started by pleading not guilty. I could cite lots of terrorism cases from varied countries round the World where the ideology driven defendants have pleaded not guilty at first.


8/13/2013 10:25:59 am

B - I agree. He does not fit the profile of the jihadist terrorist at all. He does exactly the opposite of what a jihadist/radical terrorist would do. That behavior on April 19 was what first made me think something smelled to high Heaven in this case.

8/29/2013 01:29:44 am

I think you are wrong on this. When facing capital murder and it's actually your first hearting, the lawyers have not had the time to review all the evidence, the judge would not have accept this, as down the line, he could use this for a new trial or other. Guilty only comes later when they make a plea agreement. And let us be clear if you are thinking he would plea guilty to avoid the death penalty when he did not do the crime, that would be insane for him do so, they leaves little room for a appeal. No, if he is actually innocent, whether the death penalty is on the table or not, he will go to trial and try and prove his case. If he fails, and get the DP, then he has a chance for appeals. So don't think for a moment, that some innocent guy would take LWOP without even trying to prove him self innocent. Life in prison is like death. And he is young, so that could mean along time. No most all people plea not guilty in the beginning.

8/10/2013 02:10:16 am

@aria :) Your question is off topic, but here is my answer.

Check my TL. I do attack people who post victim slander - WATL has also taken a stand against victim slander. Check my conversations with "supporters" where they are rational, I am rational.
But I can not stand people who publish victim slander with no proof and believe that the burden of proof should be in disproving their slanderous theories. It goes against reason and against any notion of justice or sense.

I believe I am constant - same person here as on twitter.

Many supporters do not have the same vision of me as you clearly have :)

8/11/2013 08:49:23 pm

Right now the ball is in the court of the Feds as we await their decision to seek execution or not. Last I heard they were beginning the process of interviewing victims who's feelings are considered in the decision. This was most definitely the case with Ariel Castro as I'm sure it was the victims desire to put the crime behind them that facilitated that plea deal.

But this case is a lot different in so much that victims testimony are not going to make or break the governments case.

8/12/2013 03:11:49 am

The defence would have to be crazy to enter a guilty plea at this point when they do not know whether the death penalty will remain on the table.

8/12/2013 11:56:49 am

I can't believe you guys took down my post about the burden of proof.


A guilty plea would have had to be negotiated with the prosecutors and agreed upon by the judge. It's almost like he had no choice but to plead not guilty.

Even if he "went rogue" and pled guilty on his own, the plea would have been rejected and a not guilty plea would have been entered for him.

8/12/2013 10:18:53 pm

I don't see why an innocent DT should change his decision to plead not guitly. A long trial with many witnesses will certainly help him because it increases the chances that the proper questions are posed, for instance:

Where exactly was the epicenter of the second bomb? Was it at the patio of the Forum - or was it near the mailbox? This question is equivalent to the question whether he's guilty or not.


There are witnesses for the patio, and there are witnesses for the mailbox. Will be interesting to see them confronted with each other at the trial.

8/29/2013 01:41:30 am

Woody Box
While this is a good observation, this is far from being the only issue with this case. I am not emotionally tied to this guy one way or another. But if all anyone is doing is calling the government liars, then that it's no use even talking about it. We are working the indictment, and where the bomb was near the mail box or a little closer to the forum, really doesn't do much, as if this video they say they have show him standing there for a while, putting down at his feet and then four minutes walking away - and then an explosion, that is heavy evidence, but it there has to be more to prove it, and I believe they are going to follow the electronic trail, his computer, phone, receipts, videos, etc. Then of course the shoot out on Laurel street where there is not just one witness but many neighbors saw them throwing explosives. So this case is not without it's flaws, With 80-100 evidence, Judy Clarke pretty much has seen so much of this evidence, including dash board cams from police, forsenics of his car, it really does not look good. yell about it all being lies but he has a professional team to discern this stuff - ending by saying, it may never go to trial. Judy Clarke that is the surest way to get the DP. She detest trials when she knows the client is guilty, and she knew this in many of her case, and they admitted to do it. They did it so they could on with their life, and live in true. Guilt can cause a person to a mental breakdown.

8/29/2013 06:46:16 am


sorry, it matters if the bomb exploded near the mailbox or "a little closer to the forum" (i.e. the patio). Because DT placed his bag near the mailbox, at the barriers and NOT "a little closer to the forum".
If the witnesses say the bomb exploded right on the patio, DTs bag was not the bomb. Period.

Judy Clarke has probably seen much of the evidence. Good for DT! I have no clue why you're still theorizing that he will plead guilty. He has pleaded not guilty, and the things which have come out in the meantime (Murphy photos) will only strengthen him.

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